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Inquiring ACVA Wants to Know

Residents have their chance to voice their opinions until Nov. 25.

Is it really "The Fun Side of The Potomac?" How do Alexandria residents, particularly those living in or in close proximity to the Old Town Historic District, feel about the push to increase tourism? And, what is their perspective of the changing Alexandria scene?

Those are the primary questions Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (ACVA) is attempting to answer in its latest and final element of a three part research project designed to lay the foundation for an updated marketing program— which is a residents’ survey now online at www.myalexandriava.com.

"The first element of the survey was personal interviews with community leaders and stakeholders. The primary aim at that stage was to garner input as to what we should be asking. Responses were confidential between the person being interviewed and our consultant. We at ACVA could not even find out who suggested what," said Stephanie Brown, president and CEO, ACVA.

"Then we did a visitors survey canvassing both past and potential visitors. We sent out 1,400 questionnaires plus an online survey. In that survey we asked people to rate Alexandria against its competitors such as Annapolis and other destinations," she said.

"We are looking for things that appeal to visitors such as restaurants, historic sites, shopping, hotels, the appeal of being on the river, and other things upon which visitors make their travel decisions," Brown explained.

The final element is the residents' survey, which will be online until Nov. 25 and can be taken by any Alexandria resident or those working here. "This is a shorter survey but it includes open-ended questions that allow respondents to express their views about Alexandria tourism overall," she said.

This information will provide helpful feedback not only to ACVA but also to local political and civic leaders. It will become an integral part of ACVA's ongoing research and planning in the development of future marketing programs.

HOWEVER, with new restaurants, hotels, shopping opportunities, and entertainment venues coming onto the scene, Alexandria's main claim to fame remains its role in the nation's history and cultural legacy. As research continues to verify, it is this fact that remains the City's primary visitor draw.

In addition to Alexandria's major role in the nation's birth, its proximity to both the nation's capital and other historic sites such as Mount Vernon Estate and Woodlawn and Gunston Hall plantations, enhances its tourism appeal. But, tourism is often viewed as a double edge sword to those living in destination locations.

"We really want to hear from those who live and work here what Alexandria means to them. After all, who knows Alexandria better than those who call this City their home?" Brown said.

"It's an exciting time to market Alexandria. It's also the right time for us as a City to express our own perceptions of Alexandria as a travel destination, as ACVA takes a look at its marketing strategy to best convey what Alexandria really means to so many people — visitors and locals alike," she said.

In addition to a variety of descriptive questions such as whether the respondent is a resident, works here, owns a business here, their age bracket, and other queries, the survey asks a series of questions on how a respondent views Alexandria and their perceptions of the City's strong points and personality.

Different from both the visitors survey and the personal interviews are three questions that give this survey its claim to defining how ACVA should develop a marketing program compatible with "Your Alexandria." They are:

* "How much do you agree that the slogan "The Fun Side of the Potomac" describes the visitor experience to Alexandria?"

* Do you have a new slogan to suggest?

* Suggestions you would like to make to ACVA.

It is anticipated a public presentation of the study's results will be presented in December, according to Brown. For additional information contact Laura Overstreet, vice president, ACVA Communications, at 703-838-4200 ext. 206 or by e-mail at lauraoverstreet@alexandria.travel.

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